Idaho Requiem

for Robert Lowell

Out here, we don't talk about culture,
we think we are. We nurtured Ezra Pound
who ran from us like hell
and never came back. You
never came at all. You
will never know how clever
we never are out here.
You never drank red beer.
You never popped a grouse
under a blue spruce just because it was there.

Tell us about Schopenhauer and your friends
and fine old family. We left ours
at the Mississippi, have no names left
to drop. We spend our time
avoiding Californians and waiting
for the sage to bloom, and when it does
we miss the damn things half the time.
When a stranger comes in we smile
and say, "Tell us about yourself."
Then we listen real close.

But you would say, "I've said what I have to say."
Too subtle, perhaps, for a can of beer,
too Augustan for the Snake River breaks.
But how do you know this wasn't just
the place to die? Why not have those
kinfolk ship your bones out here, just
for irony's sake? We keep things plain
and clear because of the mountains.
Our mythology comes down to a logger
stirring his coffee with his thumb.

From Stranger in Town: New and Selected Poems by Ron McFarland. Copyright © 2000 by Ron McFarland. Reprinted with the permission of the author and Confluence Press. All rights reserved.